By Tyler Smith Contributing Writer
The 2021 Oscars were another night in the gold plated, star studded prestige filled span of time known as “awards season”. Although Covid-19 has made most of the usual proceedings impossible because of social distancing, this year’s Oscars’ found a way to preserve the usual elegance. There were shiny envelopes containing the winners of the evening, heart felt introductions, speeches and calls to actions, and formal wear ranging from stunningly elegant to obnoxiously gaudy, depending on your preference. In addition to its usual venue the Dolby Theatre, the bulk of the awards were held at Union Station in Downtown LA. The guests were socially distanced, and there were plenty of screens so no matter where you sat, it seems like you could always see the nominees and winners. Bong Joon Ho gave an exceptional speech from Dolby Theater in Seoul, South Korea. Some people accepted their awards outside in the night air.
One thing was missing from the night however, the iconic play-off music, where an unseen entity decides someones been talking too long and in no words at all, tells them to wrap it up via a string chorus. The internet was divided on this omission, some felt that the lack of music allowed more heartfelt acceptance speeches. Yuh-Jung Youn gave a beautiful speech on her acceptance for the Oscar for Supporting Actress. Tyler Perry’s call to action on acceptance for the Humanitarian Award was much needed. However, others on the internet felt that some speeches were too rambly and that the music was in place to prevent exactly that sort of thing. Personally, I didn’t miss the play-off music per se (I do feel that some people did rambler, though) . However, the whole affair did feel strangely silent without it. Maybe it was the spacious rooms halls of Union station, but the whole event felt much more empty and silent than it usually is. It was almost awkward.
It was a landmark year for representation. Chloé Zhou won best director. According to Indiewire, she is only the second woman to win in the 93 year run of the Oscars. Daniel Kayuula and Yuh-Jung Youn won best supporting actor and actress respectively. Sound of Metal wonee Best Film Editing. Soul won Best Animated Feature, and there were many more people of color and women calling that golden statue their own that night.
However, in spite of all the effort made to make the night feel as normal as possible, and to honor people from different backgrounds in film, almost nobody saw it. The Oscars pulled in a dismal 9.85 million viewers with the low rating og 1.9 among the 18-49 demographic, according to Deadline. According to Variety, it was an all time low, down 58% from last years 23.6 million. The Oscars were another addition to the dropping viewership of awards shows in general. There could be many reasons the viewership seems to have disappeared.Streaming seems to be the usual go-to route for most households these days. Since most award shows only air on cable television, and a live tv package is pretty pricey, it’s next to impossible to watch these awards without some sort of cable package. Another reason could be the lack of diversity commonly associated with these shows. Hashtags like #oscarssowhite have had huge impacts on how people view the awards and even the academy itself, being that the academy is mostly old white men. The 2021 Oscars have made broad strokes towards a more diverse cast of winners, but is it too little too late?
Honestly, I find it embarrassing that this show has been on for nearly 100 years and only two women have one Best Director. In it’s almost 100 year run, the academy has awarded one forein language film Best Picture. America is a country of many stories. Why is only one being told?
In the final twist of the night, the late Chadwick Boseman lost his posthumous nomination for Best Actor to Anthony Hopkins, not that he isn’t well deserving of this honor. The only thing that makes it a little awkward is that the network itself was betting on Boseman to win. They said several times during the pre-show that he was certain to win, and played several clips of his numerous roles and achievements, and the impact he had on people in his life. The tributes were very touching, but I can’t help but wonder why the networks were putting so much into him winning. Maybe it was another push for diversity, maybe it was a show of a push for diversity.
This year’s Oscars changed a lot in an effort to keep up with the changing tide of film and television. However many “barriers were broken” that night, the dismal ratings say more than anything that there are still many improvements to be made. Only time will tell if the Oscars or awards shows in general can still be relevant in an ever-changing America.
Sources: Variety.com, Indiewire.com, Deadline.com